It’s tough to explain in a nutshell what Cloud Atlas is about. The story is epic and spans hundreds of years and even worlds. It explores how our lives are connected and we are and always will be intertwined. The film tells us that “our lives are not our own” and that “we are bound to others” in both past and present and as you watch, you might start to agree.
This is not your average Hollywood film.
Directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker and adapted from David Mitchell’s the 2004 novel of the same name, the film is vast and expansive. It spans hundreds of years and worlds, shifting timelines and plunging you deep into story after story (which I won’t even begin to try and tell you).
The directors each handled a different timeline and, except for one that is so obvious, is so seamless, you won’t be able to tell who directed what (stay till the end credits though if you’re curious). This is easily the Wachowskis most heartfelt film. Their past work, while technological marvels, were I felt superficial. Yeah, even as great as the first Matrix film is, it’s still not a hugely emotional film.
The cast is huge and each actor is an integral part of the film, so much so that I feel like I have to name each one of them: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.
All play several parts in various timelines throughout the film and watching Hanks and Grant play roles you’ve never seen them in is a real treat. I will say, one problem I had with the film is that, at times, some of the actors are so hidden beneath the makeup that it might actually take you out of the film. You’re trying to figure out who the person is underneath all that latex. This doesn’t happen all the time but enough to bother me.
The only other gripe I have is that I had a hard time understanding some – a lot – of Tom Hanks’ dialogue. In some of his characters, he’s downright mumbling. I’m not deaf and I’m a fan of mumblecore, but he takes this to the extreme. I honestly wish the filmmakers had put subtitles during a handful of his scenes. Not to say that he’s not damn good. I love that he’s in this film. I love that throughout his career he is always taking risks – and if this film didn’t work, it would have been a huge risk.
I really hope this film catches on because it deserves to be seen. Seen on the big screen and in IMAX if you have it in your area. Cloud Atlas is why I love movies. It may not be the best film of the year but watching this you will walk away appreciating movies again.
Just a word of warning though, at first, you might think, “What the hell am I watching?” I know I did. The timelines come at you fast and furious and throw a bunch of characters at you all at once but stick with it. Once you get to the half hour mark, the film will have washed over you and you’ll absolutely get into it.
On, and stick around till the end credits where you’ll see each of the characters the actors play. You’ll be amazed at some of them.